Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.
Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.
Luke: Then my father is truly dead.
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
So this weekend we didn’t hide eggs for Padawan Learner like we usually do. We didn’t get together with family like we have in the past – that whole distance thing. We didn’t gork out in a sugar-induced coma from dawn to dusk, like could reasonably have been expected. (A bit of chocolate and jelly beans – courtesy of my mother – did make its way into our bellies though.)
Instead, we went to a conference. A really good conference. A conference right here in downtown Des Moines. We went to the American Atheist national conference, and it was great. There were a few protesters, but not many, and it didn’t get nasty. No one was converted, on either side. A few dribbled inside to drill the people sitting at informational booths during the lecture periods, but they leaked away when their arguments failed to impress and no ire was raised.
Speakers of all stripes talked about some specifically religious issues, some legal issues regarding separation of church and state cases, the hidden diversity of atheists and why some people have a harder time “coming out” as an atheist (hint: fear of losing jobs, friends, and family), a science biography for a theoretical physicist, a discussion of “The Family” on C-Street in Washington, D.C. that had Dad Windu shaking when it was over, and much more. It was, perhaps, a bit of an unexpected weekend but, as always, it was nice to meet other like-minded people and spend some time together as a couple. (PL spent much of the weekend hanging out in the audience with a blob of other teens that attended.)
What does the quote up there have to do with it? That’s what atheists are often accused of: “hating” a god, religion, the religious – of being in general hateful. I can’t speak for every atheist, but that isn’t what it is for me or my family. Yes, we are angry at times about things that are done in the name of a deity, for the way that people look down on us for not believing in their or even just “some” higher power, and that we are statistically the most despised and mistrusted group of people in America (who wouldn’t be a little ticked about that?), but really it’s just about us trying – like everyone else – to make sense of this world and our place in it. We believe that life, meaning, purpose, and all the rest can be explained – yes, even best explained – without invoking the role of the supernatural. Hate me for it if you will, but that’s part of who we are.